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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Guarantee: I will Never Support Increased House Building on Green Field Sites

I want to make something crystal clear to anyone thinking of voting for me in the upcoming General Election and who may have been alarmed by Green Party leader Natalie Bennett's well publicised pledge to build 500,000 new council houses in five years of a Green Party government. As a Green MP I would only support this plan as long as the homes were built on brownfield sites. Within the party I am currently calling for clarification on this matter as the location of these homes in terms of types of site needs to be made clear to the electorate. However I can promise Colchester voters that there is more chance of me flying to Mars on a spaceship made of chocolate than there is of me ever supporting building large housing estates over the countryside. 

Brownfield Sites Available

The current government estimates that there is capacity for 400,000 new homes on public sector brownfield sites, mainly former industrial sites, in London alone ( website). Add to this private sector brownfield sites and the capacity goes above 500,000 just in London alone.
Within Colchester there have been some excellent brownfield site developments in recent years. Within a short distance from my house part of the former Paxman diesel site was recently developed into a new estate which is a vast improvement on what was there before, that being a grotty disused industrial eyesore with a huge brick wall running down Port Lane. There have been some excellent developments down at the Hythe and there is capacity for more. Former factories, warehouse sites and garages can be transformed for the better by residential development.

My Record on this Issue

Preserving the countryside for future generations is one of my most cherished beliefs. I have helped people I know to campaign against a massive housing development imposed on the villages of Barwell and Stapleton in Leicestershire, where I grew up, by Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council for five years via letter writing, leaflet distribution, internet campaigning and liaising with sympathetic politicians from other parties.  In the Colchester area I have opposed imposed from on high green field development in Coggeshall and am currently writing letters and publicising the threats to both Salary Brook and Irvine Road Orchard. Back in the 1990s I supported the campaigns against the destructive road building schemes that were the Newbury bypass and Twyford Down projects. Admittedly this was via letter writing rather than Swampy-style direct action however the bottom line is that you can trust me on this issue. It is where my heart lies. Any attempt by any whip or similar 'enforcer' to make me do an about turn would be met with the phrase, "Go take a running jump".

The Green Party Must Not Abandon its Support For the Green Belt 

Unfortunately, at the upcoming Green Party spring conference, a new planning draft paper is being put forward by Tom Chance, a member of Southwark Green Party. This re-writes the policy chapter on planning following an enabling motion at the 2014 spring conference. The re-write contains a highly dangerous and thinly veiled attempt to water down the party's commitment to the green belt. I would urge any Green Party member attending this conference to vote against this draft paper.  The wording in question states:

LP510 Local authorities should review their green belt on a periodic basis where they are failing to achieve sustainable development, for example where they are causing sprawl and commuting beyond their bounds, and where there is scope for more sustainable development on existing green belt sites, for example near transport hubs. Reviews should seek to achieve the policies set out in LP406, ensure no net loss in the quantity and quality of green belt land, and should aim to ‘green the greenbelt’.

On the surface, this clause seems highly green ('green the greenbelt') and about preserving it ('quantity and quality'). But it isn't. Look closer. It suggests that councils should move the greenbelt around to facilitate development on existing green belt land. 'Transport hubs' means building on greenbelt land next to roads or railways. It is similar to Conservative Party proposals to encourage councils to shift the green belt around. Yes the quantity stays the same but it means that an area of land that can be developed on will be freed up for building and replaced with an area that no one would ever want to develop or could be developed such as a high flood risk area. It is about facilitating more building in the countryside.
To adopt this clause would be anti-Green and I will never under any circumstances support it if passed. 

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